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H-E-B Strengthens Seafood Sourcing Standards

Retailer improves sustainability program through expanded partnership with Environmental Defense Fund
Alaska
Photograph courtesy of H-E-B

Further strengthening its commitment to sustainability, H-E-B has enhanced its sourcing standards and transparency for all fresh, frozen, prepared and shelf-stable seafood.

In partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the San Antonio-based retailer has updated its policy to source certified wild-caught and farmed seafood; expand traceability systems for all seafood products; combat human rights abuses in seafood supply chain and support workers’ rights; and promote environmental and ethical integrity within its canned tuna supply.

A highlight among the policy updates includes H-E-B’s revision to its sourcing grid to include information about catching methods. The grid also lists production methods, sustainability certifications and country of origin, providing customers with easy access to information about all seafood sold in H-E-B stores. The retailer said it plans to update the grid at least twice a year.

The move marks an addition to H-E-B’s existing traceability efforts, which prevent illegal, unreported or unregulated seafood from reaching its stores. Should a supplier not meet these requirements, H-E-B said it will remove the supplier’s seafood products from inventory and terminate business with companies in violation of these standards.

“The health and management of individual fisheries and farms are considered in all or our sourcing decisions,” Jason Driskill, director of seafood for H-E-B, said in a statement. “We continue to work with suppliers and fisheries that demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, animal welfare and food safety. We owe it to our customers to provide a fully traceable and transparent seafood supply they can trust.”

For both fresh and frozen items, H-E-B sources its seafood from certified fisheries and farms that comply to strict sustainability standards, including sources that are rated green or yellow on EDF’s Seafood Selector, or are certified sustainable by prominent seafood-industry certification organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council and the Global Aquaculture Alliance, which aim to encourage improvements to fisheries and farms, set catch limits, promote scientific research and reduce accidental capture of species.

Policies around H-E-B’s farmed seafood include stringent third-party certification to verify numerous standards, including water and feed quality. The company also conducts further independent inspections for farmed products from Asia to ensure the seafood is sourced from certified producers.

H-E-B said it will regularly update and enhance its policies with help from EDF, which strategically advises the retailer in its efforts to support and uphold its high sustainability standards.

“With this new policy, H-E-B reaffirms its commitment to remaining at the forefront of sustainable and responsible seafood sourcing,” Tim Fitzgerald, director of impact for EDF’s Oceans program, said in a statement. “We have been with them every step of the way and are excited to continue working with them on these complex and dynamic issues.”

Each year, U.S. consumers eat an estimated 1 billion pounds of canned and pouched tuna, according to the National Fisheries Institute. To subside supply chain concerns around canned tuna products, all brands of H-E-B’s private label tuna can be traced back to the vessel and capture location using its Trace My Catch tool.

In addition, all H-E-B brand tuna is third-party certified, ensuring that the product derives from fisheries that use approved fishing gear to minimize accidental capture of species including dolphins, sharks, rays and turtles. Outside its private label, H-E-B sources nearly all of its canned tuna from suppliers that work with leading conservation organizations that encourage responsible fishing practices.  

One of the largest retail buyers of Gulf seafood in Texas, H-E-B is also committed to locally sourced seafood and in 2012, became the first major retailer to offer fresh, responsibly harvested seafood under the Gulf Wild brand.

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